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September Commander's Corner

U.S. Air Force Col. Mike Manning, 169th Fighter Wing commander at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina Air National Guard, poses for his portrait, August 9, 2013. (U.S. Air National guard Photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson/Released)

U.S. Air Force Col. Mike Manning, 169th Fighter Wing commander at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina Air National Guard, poses for his portrait, August 9, 2013. (U.S. Air National guard Photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson/Released)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, South Carolina -- We are days away from ACC/IG team arrival. Folks are making final preparations for game day. Tensions are high. Excitement is in the air. As we approach the weekend, Swampfox are getting anxious, even getting butterflies in their stomachs as we anticipate kickoff on Sunday morning. I love the anticipation of a big competition. It makes me focus and concentrate on my upcoming tasks. I thoroughly enjoy working together as a team with my fellow Swampfox on challenges like this Certified Readiness Evaluation. It's one of the many things that keep this job interesting. It will be a little bittersweet when it's over. Yeah, we'll get to enjoy all the accolades and satisfaction in crushing our opponents, but after a few days rest I'll be ready for the next challenge. When the competitions are finally all over and I'm attending reunions, I know I'll proudly swap stories, using the 10% truth rule of course, with my compatriots about how we dominated the first ever Certified Readiness Evaluation. At our recent pilot's reunion I could see and hear the pride in our retirees as they recounted their military service. Any time you meet a retiree you can see the gleam in his or her eye as the stories come out. Well, I'm not quite retired yet. I intend to savor these last few challenges because I know I'm going to miss being in the thick of things with my fellow Swampfox. Don't get me wrong, I'm looking forward to all the fun outside of work too. Work hard, play hard and have fun doing both.

Some would say our ops tempo is too high, AEF, inspection, deployment, AEF... and repeat. If you look at our calendar, past and future, it does seem overwhelming. How can we do all that? Ever wonder how professional athletes or competitors can perform consistently at such a high level? They break the complexity into several key tasks and then take each, one at a time. Those outside the SCANG look at what a 24 F-16 / 1500-person fighter wing does (combat deployments, readiness inspections, daily training) and wonder in amazement, how do they do that? The Swampfox are very much like a professional sports team. A key to our success is to not let the complexity of our mission set overwhelm us. For the big games out in front of us, we've broken down the challenge into a manageable set of tasks upon which we based our preparation. In order to dominate our opponents we have to stay focused. We've done that with our work up to this evaluation. We're ready. We'll do the same for our upcoming AEF, inspection, the next deployment... and repeat.

What about the ops tempo? How do we keep from getting overwhelmed? For one, don't worry about the game after the one coming up. That's a sure way of having a losing season. Focus is key. If you find yourself, your teammates or your team (as a supervisor/coach) starting to lose that focus, you need to reign it in. Anyone can do it. Leadership isn't just on a manning document. True leaders are at all levels. Another key to managing ops tempo is a positive attitude. It's infectious and anyone can be the catalyst for that team energy. Ever wonder how our Vietnam POWs survived for years in the worst conditions? Attitude. It just takes one person, someone like Bud Day, to have that positive attitude and leadership that serves as the catalyst for the entire team to succeed. Don't let negative attitudes and complaining overwhelm your group. Identifying things wrong within an organization is great, but if those complaints come with no workable offers of solution, it's just whining. We have no time for that.

My advice to you is, enjoy MOPP 4! You will talk about it at your reunions. The shared misery. The shared success. It's all part of living the Urban Legend of the Swampfox. Good hunting this weekend.

Semper Primus.